Health and Safety - Tips
[This page - Women Travelers (below), General Safety,
Health Issues, Sand Flies,
Potpourri of Suggestions]
Travel Advice for Women - Honduras Travel
traveling alone may anticipate a
bit of attention, both visually and possibly vocally.
culturally appropriately. Long skirts just make sense if you want to draw
less attention. Confine beach wear and shorts to the Bay Islands.
A recent visitor wrote that after observing local women wearing contemporary
apparel in La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula, women might well want to consider capris
and cotton. My wife suggests that the smaller the village, the more
conservative you dress. We were in several villages where she says that
anything other than a long dress would have been inappropriate. Use your
I heartily agree with the cotton
clothing recommendation, as mentioned in our 'packing
for travel' section.
catcalls if they occur and move on. This can be handled just as at home
through a construction workers' area. If you engage or respond to the
banter, it merely escalates.
◊ Avoid direct eye contact when
talking with males. This has nothing to do with deference. When women make
direct eye contact in Honduras, it is an "invitation" that you may not want to be
extending. Don't do it.
Most would encourage women not travel alone. If you must travel alone, use taxis and travel
during the day. Use good sense!
early for the bus so that you can sit - - avoiding the physical jostling, etc., that is
inevitable in the aisle. Buses get very crowded. Where available,
use 1st class buses rather than chicken buses.
the bus, seek out an elderly Honduran woman as a travel
mate. Age is still respected and you are less apt to be bothered by
Casanova, if he rides your route.
someone tries to swipe your purse, don't resist (because you aren't carrying
valuables in it anyways - see general safety ideas below).
you have issues that need police attention, stop by a church and ask that
someone go with you to the police station. While I make no promises, it
General Safety Ideas
Gang violence has escalated, particularly
in San Pedro Sula. The tragic Christmas 2004
bus shooting had
the country in a tizzy. The tourist ministry was
cringing after working so hard to profile Honduras in a better light. While of no
consolation to Hondurans, this violence is not directed at tourists.
Rather, it seems that the poorest are at the mercy of the gangs, daily through
extortions and neighborhood control.
People have written and asked if this spate of violence would change my mind
about visiting Honduras. It would not. I decidedly would
spend less time in San Pedro Sula but:
1. Honduras is much, much more than gang violence.
The violence grabs our front page, just as it does at home.
2. The violence has not yet been directed towards tourists.
At the same time, I would tell you that if this makes you
anxious, don't travel. There is absolutely no reason to spend money
and well-earned vacation time worrying about whether or not a Honduran gang is
going to ruin your time. It is your call.
Awareness is the key – In numerous trips to Central
America, we have not had one problem with security. The Department of
State offers a cautionary
Read it. It will give you pause that is for sure,
as will the numerous rifle-toting guards and police whom you will see in the larger cities.
I admit that I take the State Department's warning with a grain of salt.
I recognize the inherent danger in any metropolitan area, regardless of the
country. I have always been curious how our
Department would write up travel alerts (if written objectively) on New York
City or Chicago. What
to do then?
Let's list some key6
ideas to help with safety issues:
◊ Always ask the front desk for the safe
and less-than-safe areas for walking.
◊ Take no jewelry with you. A
$25 Timex is sufficient. We leave all other jewelry, even our wedding
bands, at home.
◊ Use taxis
after dark. In metro
areas, taxis should be used to move from bus station to bus station.
◊ Don’t flash cash around. Use a
money belt for extra cash and your passport. Carry only the day's money in your front pocket with a thick
rubber band around it. The band helps hold the wad in your pocket when you
◊ Take one credit card, leaving all
the cancellation details with a friend at home. If traveling with someone,
they should take a different credit card.
Split the cash and travelers' checks with your traveling partner. Each
◊ Write down travelers' check numbers
and keep in a place separate from your checks. Have the phone number
available to report lost checks.
◊ Be aware of your surroundings.
Essentially, act just like you would in any major metropolitan area.
◊ Use common sense. Use good
judgment. I found that the people in Honduras were extremely
“protective” of us and were quick to assist with a list of “do’s and don’ts” for
us when we merely asked.
Don’t bring along tons of over-the-counter items. Honduran
pharmacies are very well stocked and the prices are comparable to what you pay
in North America.
◊ Put your prescriptions4
in the bottles in which they
were dispensed in your carry-on, not in your checked baggage.
◊ In cities, pharmacies take turns
remaining open 24 hours a day. When it is a pharmacy’s turn, a green card
will be displayed in the front window.
◊ Pharmacists in Honduras have 6
years of post-high school education. They often serve as the first line of
“physicianing.” Have a medical issue? First talk with a pharmacist.
– If you get in a bind, you can find English-speaking docs in Santa Rosa
de Copan, Copan, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, The Bay Islands, and La Ceiba.
Overall, medical care in Honduras is not up to North American standards.
◊ Consider buying medical emergency
air evacuation insurance. Because I have a back issue, we bought a $50,000
plan for $16 through our auto association – a bargain by any standard.
Lonely Planet offers a
listing of firms dealing with trip insurance (to include air evacuation, if
◊ Check to make sure your health
insurance plan covers care in Honduras. Medicare doesn't cover you in
◊ Diarrhea. If you do
experience a bout, give it 24 hours. Use plenty of clear liquids - -
hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and eat plain
toast or white rice. If it continues beyond 24 hours, go after it with
that prescription anti-biotic we talked about earlier.
– No discussion of the North Coast, Roatan, Guanaja, or
Utila would be complete
without a discussion of
biting midges. I have yet to figure
out why God created these although some naturalist using mind-altering drugs
will surely conjure up a reason. Sand flies5
live on and off the beach, just waiting for you to come along.
◊ Cover up. Cotton socks and pant legs help. Put a drop of
lavender oil on your cuffs.
Stay off the beach or out of wooded, moist areas when there is no breeze.
◊ Some people swear by taking garlic
oil pills or B-1 (100 mg daily); Off Deep Woods (or any product containing
DEET); Avon Skin So Soft; or a Texas product,
Cactus Juice (which is available on Roatan). Go ahead and lather up.
None worked. I got drilled, period. My wife, sitting right
next to me, walked away without a bite. I am convinced that some of
us are allergic to them; some of us are not.
New products with R-326 claim to be more effective and avoid the medical
concerns of DEET/skin absorption. If you have the time, order a
spray with R-326 ahead of time.
So you got bit up, eh mate?
◊ What to do when bit? At night,
take two Benadryl. It helps. During the day, apply hydrogen
peroxide. Let it dry. Then, load up with calamine lotion (calamina).
There are also anti-itch creams available in the pharmacies. If you have a
good cream from home, take it with you. Resist the urge to scratch
(he chuckles) as scratching often leads to infection.
◊ If it is of any consolation,
keep in mind that the sand fly (only the female bites humans) has a life cycle
of 4-days. It is long dead after you still are itching. What a
A Potpourri of
Services (Lavanderia) - Earlier, in the planning recommendations, we suggested
packing with cottons that could be washed out in your hotel sink at
all the cities (Copan Ruinas and Santa Rosa Copan as well), you will find laundries
that take your clothing in the morning and have it wash, dried, and folded by 6
p.m. Hotels in the larger cities will wash your clothes as well.
Avail yourself of these very inexpensive services; hotels charge more than local
Showers – Be
careful with two plumbing issues throughout Honduras:
◊ Hot/Cold piping is sometimes
reversed. Check before entering the shower.
showers (often called 'widows makers') are merely
electrical heating elements crudely wired to the showerhead.
Watch out where you put your hands during the shower.
assume that public areas, to include restaurants, will have toilet paper.
Grab a roll out of your hotel room. Crush
the cardboard core and remove it. Toss the roll in that purse you bought.
Trust me, this can come in very handy. At the right moment, T.P.
more precious than gold.
– Speaking of bathrooms, every restroom (baño or servicio) has a basket
right near the commode. Guess what it is for? The used paper goes
into the basket. The low water pressure and sewer systems can’t handle
waste paper. You will get used to this. Honest, you will.
Standard of Living
First-time North Americans
are often taken back by the poverty in Central America. Visitors to
Honduras need be aware that Honduras has the second lowest per capita income in
the Western Hemisphere. At times, divers land in Roatan, get a step or
two off the path and say, "This isn't what I expected. Insulate me
from this ..." The unfortunate reality of poverty exists throughout
Latin America, even if some 5-star all-inclusive resorts and their promotional
literature try to "protect" you from it.
Often I am asked, how best to interact
if people ask for money. In Honduras, I experienced very few such situations (as contrasted
to my experiences in Guatemala during its civil war). Honduran people are very proud people
and maintain their dignity in the face of a terrible, grinding poverty.
you are asked for money, how best deal with it?
◊ I do two things. First, I say,
I then invite the individual to a comedor (small dining
room with inexpensive food). Sometimes my offer is accepted; sometimes it
◊ Why not just give someone some money
and move on? You will have to decide this for yourself. Years ago,
when traveling in Guatemala, our Guatemala host asked us not to give to those
who asked for things. He said, “You can be seen as a dollar bill, not as a
person. If at the end of this trip, if you want to give money, I can
suggest organizations that are making significant, systemic changes that improve
our people’s lives.” His advice has served us well in our numerous trips
to Central America.
each of our trips, my wife and I budget a percentage of our total expenditures for an
that is making a difference. When we get home, that is the first
"bill" that is paid. Here are five fine organizations
working in Honduras that would use your money wisely. Give without worries
-- it will be used very wisely:
Nuestras Pequeñas Rosas (Our Little Roses) - Located in San Pedro Sula,
Nuestras Pequeñas Rosas is home to 70 young previously homeless girls.
It is an outgrowth of the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras.
Habitat for Humanity (earmarked
for Honduras) - In Honduras, Habitat’s goal
is to build 1,000 homes a year in the San Pedro Sula area through 2007.
Heifer Project International (earmarked for Honduras) – Heifer’s work in
Honduras is in the Siguatepeque area.
Adelante, based in La Ceiba.
Adelante is a micro-credit, entrepreneurship organization that lends small
amounts of money to individuals (mainly women) so that they may begin their own
business. Superb organization.
La Clinica Esperanza,
a virtual life mission by Peggy Stranges, RN, to provide medical care
to the low income of Roatan
Online information -
Further information about a variety of organizations working for the improvement
of life in Honduras are as close as the next link. projecthonduras.com
is an online portal -- a network of individuals
and groups working on innovative, grassroots responses to Honduras' social and
economic needs, leveraging the information and the talent, expertise, and time
within their network to serve as a catalyst for change. The site is an
excellent 'window' through which prospective volunteers can see the variety of
organizations working for the betterment of Honduran life.
"Hope is a state of mind, not of the world.
Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are
going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good."
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